Why B2B Technology markets makes switching too easy

Don’t try to hold B2B Technology Client hostage

B2B Technology markets can make switching by the customer too easy. Existing or legacy technology can become too cumbersome to use . Or refuses to realize its promise after trying for years. The client, in despair, becomes willing to try a new supplier. That supplier is willing to transfer the legacy system.

The solution is not to become sticky by merely embedding your technology in the customer’s processes. Or make the customer a hostage to your technology. Instead, it’s useful to think of what we learnt in the industrial B2B era as we continue to compete in the knowledge economy. But first some background.

Buy Class and Server based B2B Technology

A key in B2B markets is the idea of “Buy Class” also called “Buy Task”. Think back to the industrial era. Imagine you produce a product through an assembly line (cars) or process (chemicals). You need to have production machines. Operators are trained on those machines. The machines need a whole lot of additional support like forklift trucks, spare part stores, maintenance folks that run the steam, forced air utilities etc. A quality control department needs to have quality control checks designed around every step of the process. Thus it’s hard to be a new supplier and replace existing machines for the manufacturing B2B customer. The manufacturing customer would go for a rebuy and buy the next model when the machine needs replacement.The machine manufacturer would be able to train the people on any innovations on the prior platform and machine. There are long term B2B relationships from the CEO down to the machine operator in place. There would be no need for a whole lot of people and process changes.

In contrast, B2B Technology systems are about making things easier after the adoption of the system. Wholehearted adoption by every user is a key in B2B technology success for the client. In the early days of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) companies swore by SAP compared to other ERP systems. Implementing SAP was another matter. Users joked that the full form of SAP was “Slow And Painful.” Investment traders shorted the stock of the customer company because it would take several years for the benefits to reach the bottom line. Once the ERP was implemented though, things improved dramatically as all internal data became much more visible.

Fast forward to the SAAS model of B2B technology

Fast forward to the SAAS (Software as a Service) model of B2B technology. In-house servers were out and everything was on the cloud. But being on the cloud does not make you user friendly. An entrenched player does not seem to have much of an advantage either.

Microsoft was inside every company . Yet Microsoft owned Skype did not make any headway in the pandemic. Zoom did. In education technology Blackboard was already inside Universities. They had introduced Learning Management Systems (LMS) first with servers and then on the cloud. Blackboard was hard to use but we believe they had the resources to completely redesign their product and simply replace the old product. They had University B2B relationships and had got Professors to learn the pretty difficult system who in turn persuaded students to learn it. And then a much better user experience in Ed tech happened with Canvas. Recent analysis by EdScoop suggests that Canvas has overtaken Blackboard.

Since user experience is so important everyone in technology is trying to make their product easier to use. But there is a critical difference between B2B and B2C technology marketing.

The critical difference between B2C and B2B technology marketing

There is a critical difference between B2C and B2B technology marketing. LinkedIn, Twitter,Facebook have a B2C face where you sign up as an individual (B2C). Yes they would like you to post and engage several times a day. But large segments of B2C users are generally passive. This works in a business model sense of push advertising to an audience like TV programs with varying viewership.

Advertising happens at the edge of the client organization but as soon as your B2B technology is embedded into the organization that involves any business process from accounting, finance, supply chain, inventory, human resources to marketing and customer service it’s useful to extend some established industrial ideas in B2B marketing.

Thinking for a way forward for B2B Technology
Enhance customer support and listen

Don’t have the ex-factory mindset from manufacturing. Ex-factory mindset works when there are no competitors. Recall Henry Ford’s famous quote on the Model T: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.” The logic is that the product is so valuable that you take it and I don’t want to know what you do with it.

A similar mindset exists in B2B technology vendors. Some of the biggest names have practically no customer support. Many start-ups have the customer success function and that seems to be a step in the right direction.

Since the pandemic, global 24 hour customer service is excellent and affordable. Train and incentivize your operators to gather and report insights that users share so freely. Don’t zone out! The feedback is free and signals many pain points of the actual users of your B2B technology.

Avoid Feature Fatigue: Build New ?

As explained in the S Curves of innovation , the dilemma to keep adding new features (bells and whistles) to an existing product is very real and continues to the digital age. No sooner than a couple of customers or even prospects mention a feature that the product development teams start working. The reality is that features can lead to feature fatigue. Assess if the new feature will only matter to the advanced user. New features do not necessarily mean much to prospective customers.

It’s more important to have a vision for outstanding value to the client and stick to it. Just keep checking for feedback on how well the value is being realized at the customer end. Great B2B marketers of industrial products have always been interested in their customers beyond just getting paid. They keep a close watch on the final individual customer’s behavior and preferences as they change rapidly.

Closely watch the final individual customer’s behavior

For all B2B is ultimately paid for by individual customers. And customers can change rapidly. Two examples:

Learning Management Systems (LMS) : The student is the ultimate user of LMS. And today’s student is used to Instagram and TikTok. While current LMS’s do not approach the user friendly nature of giant social media companies – there is significant improvement. Working with a completely clean slate on product, based on all the market knowledge from current customers, would be a good and inexpensive approach.

Electric Cars vs Hybrid: Toyota Prius started the hybrid can in 1997. Over the next 25 years Toyota has been perfecting the hybrid car even as oil prices declined. Electric cars, including Tesla, were just not taking off without “environmental” government credits. But now Hybrid cars seem like Blackberry. No one wants to punch keys. Thus all automakers are planning to go all electric. Some automakers had the resources to do this years ago. Why they stayed in the old “S Curve” is intriguing.

If a large enough segment of consumers seem to be shifting and some start-up businesses have started a lower S curve- don’t ignore it. Put resources behind that lower S-Curve early on. Your current customer relationships are strong enough to trial it out.

To summarize: If you are a B2B Technology supplier don’t believe that you can have your customer hostage. Instead take a keen interest in the customer’s business and customer outcomes. Isn’t that the reason that your B2B technology launched in the first place?

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Customer Journey,CRM and Advertising Goals

Customer Journey : Connecting the Sales Funnel to Ad Goals and CRM

The trouble is that most businesses and their leaders don’t seem to fully appreciate the value of long term customer relationships. “New” customers sound more sexy than “Old” customers. On a lighter note, Tinder sounds more exciting than eHarmony. Our marketing academic audience knows about the 1987 seminal work by Dwyer, Schurr and Oh where they famously developed their theory based on the sociology of marriage contrasting the “one night stand” (eg.Tinder) vs a “long term marriage” (eg. eHarmony). Ages before the Internet. Those interested can access the full text of their 1987 paper Developing Buyer Seller Relationships.

To summarize, your old customers pay your current bills. New customers will hopefully pay future bills as your business grows.


Every prospective customer is on a journey to purchase. And once you have figured out your market segment and target market, you need to meet the customer where they are at. Think of the old sales funnel ( or Purchase Funnel, AIDA model , attributed to American Advertising Advocate E.St. Elmo Lewis in 1898). In the 19th and early 20th century the Sales Funnel was used in personal selling and in traditional advertising. Today variations continue on all forms of digital advertising including Google Ads, Facebook Ads etc. B2B marketers bemoan the “long” sales cycle and B2C keep reworking everything from product, price, place and promotion (4 P’s of marketing) trying to double guess the consumer and competitors.For only a paying customer produces revenue that keeps the business running. Once there is a paying customer that customer enters the CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) of the business. This customer has a transaction history which helps in all kinds of Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and RFM (Recency, Frequency and Monetary value) techniques that we will cover in later posts.

Because businesses should care deeply about their existing customer data, this post explains the connection between Customer Journey,CRM and Advertising Goals.

This post takes the three goals of advertising and maps them into the three stage customer journey typically used in Google Ads certification training. And finally we connect the kinds of first party data that the CRM can collect.

Awareness in the Sales Funnel maps to Inform in Advertising Goals -but can’t be usually captured in CRM

Once you have identified the most appropriate segment of the market you are targeting the Marketer must build awareness of the brand. If the target market is not aware of your brand: nothing happens. You are trying to reach the first goal of advertising. viz. trying to inform the customer. A cold database is strongly discouraged legally (CAN-SPAM) except if you are reaching out to members of a group whose emails are available publicly and you are also a member. It’s usually fine for a small business that is member of a local Chamber of Commerce to email other members from the membership directory available online. In such cases the email open rate, click rate are important indicators that your Awareness/Inform goals are getting reached. In both Google and Facebook advertising you really don’t know the contact details of who saw your display or video ads.

To summarize, except for email marketing you really cannot know who individually is becoming aware of your brand. It is thus hard to capture awareness data into your CRM.

Consideration in the Sales Funnel maps to Remind in Advertising Goals and can be usually captured in CRM

A customer in your target market can enter the consideration stage once she is aware of your brand. That is why reminding is so important in advertising to move the customer on the journey to purchase. Online, customers who are considering might fill up a contact form, newsletter signup and these names can be added to your CRM. Also if you are working off a cold email list (particularly in B2B) high open and click rates indicate consideration and it is good to try and call the person to set up a meeting. Remember an initial presentation in a B2B sales meeting is still in the consideration stage or the sales pipeline. In social media Facebook or LinkedIn does not make it easy to find the contact details of the people who liked your post. Unless you are a direct connection with that individual. In any case, we find that most people don’t seem to have their contact details on Facebook or LinkedIn. And yes they have their contact details with the social media platform and you can advertise (and pay!) to reach those who “liked” your brand on Facebook.

Customer Journey to connection with your brand: This connection to your brand can take two forms . Through social media and through a contact form:

  1. Connecting through social media: The customer may not have bought your brand yet but has entered the consideration stage of the funnel. She might be a public supporter by liking your Facebook, YouTube Instagram, TikTok or other social media posts. By publicly acknowledging your brand the potential customer is sending a social message to her own online social connections. Connecting with all these supporters through a CRM system is a little complex and we will explain in a later post.
  2. Connecting through a contact form: The web contact form or a newsletter signup gives you enough (first party) data to add the potential customer to your “Potential Customer” segment in your CRM. Now these interested folks can be part of your email marketing campaigns.

Let’s face it. Your data ( called first party data in today’s age of data privacy ) in your CRM or your Customer Database is your single most valuable marketing “tangible”asset. First they give you a chance to serve existing loyal customers better and earn a larger share of their “wallet”. Second, using your CRM data and some simple analysis you can deploy digital marketing far more effectively. Third, for both small and large businesses your “book of customers” is an important part of the valuation of your company for acquisitions and mergers.

Purchase in the Sales Funnel maps to Persuade in Advertising Goals and MUST be captured in your CRM

Past customer transaction data is your most valuable marketing asset. It tells you what the customer actually did that directly spoke to your bottom line. It help you build loyalty programs and have tiered approaches for different customers. These are the levels of loyalty rewards you see commonly in airlines, hotels, stores. There is huge opportunity to improve these programs and is one reason for high demand of marketing analytic skills.

CRM systems are available from many software suppliers. They can include activities like email marketing (B2B prospect lists) and the data can be integrated into the Financial Systems through ERP (eg. Oracle,SAP). Some functions like Call Centers are outsourced simply because the marketing leaders seem to be rewarded more for new customers rather than for providing excellent services (now called Customer Success in the start up world). We do not find much evidence that all the customer call data is integrated back into the CRM system despite software solutions out there. Once a customer becomes loyal due to an excellent experience they spread the word (word of mouth ) and can become Net Promoters, see Net Promoter Score-NPS ). The good word can be turbocharged in a social media world. It turns out that (a) You do have your customers historical data of purchases (b) You are not using that data to find customers like those customers you already love. The customer database can be analyzed in a variety of ways including the old direct mail way of Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), and Recency,Frequency, Monetary (RFM). We’ll cover more of these topics in later posts.

A customer who pays and buys is the ultimate proof that the marketing worked. However, you are never 100% sure which specific action in your marketing really helped in moving individual customers along the journey.

But that is why marketing is so interesting!

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Leadership Style 2022: Jack Welch or Satya Nadella?

Which leadership style to adopt in 2022 with the Great Resignation ?

One of our all time popular posts is about Jack Welch’s leadership style.

The Jack Welch ( legendary CEO of GE ) style is what most Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964) grew up with. Organizations exist because stuff needs to be “done” by teams of people. If you as a team member can’t deliver – you are out was the mantra. If you hold a job, you should know the outcomes expected in your job. Your manager may not communicate along the way. Or you may be hesitant to ask for help to achieve your expected outcomes.

Gen X( Born 1965-1980) was willing to go along with the Baby Boomer/Jack Welch leadership style. Gen Y or Millennials ( Born 1981 to 1996) and Gen Z or Zoomers (Born 1997 – 2012) are very different. Since the pandemic and the Great Resignation , we thought it was timely to rethink the Jack Welch style as discussed in our very popular posts on Jack Welch. Between the generations the economy has shifted from industrial to service and now the knowledge economy. Also family wealth has increased so Baby Boomers and Gen X are happy to support their adult children as needed. All this has resulted in dramatic shifts and here are three illustrations:

  1. Gen Y and Z don’t obsess as much about ownership and are happy to pay for use. These include houses (Rent, Airbnb) cars (Uber). Freed from the tyranny of fixed loan payments and more assured of parental support they feel less trapped in organizations that they do not like.
  2. Also Gen Y and Z are happy to change their jobs and locations easily as the pandemic has shown. The carrot and stick approach does not seem to work as well as it did in earlier times.
  3. Younger people worldwide are far kinder to each other. And they are more accepting of people different than themselves. They are far more open to diversity.

When Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he made the reading of “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall B. Rosenberg compulsory for the top management. Nadella’s predecessor at Microsoft ,Steve Balmer followed a version of the Jack Welch approach without the candor that Jack promoted at GE.

We got hold of “Nonviolent Communication” (Note: we get no commission for offering this Amazon link to our dear readers) and were amazed at the way candor was really executed. In the Jack Welch era, you called a spade a spade. Candor meant that you tell your people on their face that their work “sucks”. Even back then, you didn’t make friends. Legend has it that in the old GE days managers had to list their bottom 10% people and HR would find that several colleagues (now deceased) were listed in the bottom 10% . Just so that the manager could avoid firing current colleagues! The dilemma was that if you avoid offering feedback to team members things don’t improve and the whole organization suffers.

Nadella’s approach with Nonviolent Communication turned out to be a game changer for Microsoft. From morale to financial performance and stock price – everything has been only improving.

Incidentally, the Satya Nadella approach also hits the spot in a multi-generational workspace. Nonviolent Communication resonates with Gen Y and Z .

Here is a brief application of Rosenberg’s suggestions for our dear readers in their roles at any organization. Our sense is that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers become happier and this is a great path to have Millenials and Gen Z’s buy in to your organizational mission.

Scenario: You as the leader of Sales have a team member who has missed the last important project deadline. For this scenario assume that the sales team member (cross reporting to finance) was working on costing sheets for an important Request for Proposal (RFP). Some predicted prices were expected to reach the costing person from Supply Chain folks who were supposed to get predicted prices from certain suppliers. With COVID, Supply Chain issues, inflation there were a lot of moving parts to predict for the costing person. You now have a one on one Zoom meeting next week to discuss the next costing for the next response to a new RFP

Nonviolent communication suggests the following approach for your meeting with the team member.The foundational principle is to build a human connection with the other person that involves a common humanity and bonds of trust and cooperation. You are neither trying to provide a carrot (incentive) or a stick (threat).:

  1. Observation :You start with observing the facts of the situation. Since the primary agenda of the meeting is for costing out a new RFP a good way is to start by saying ” we have a new RFP coming up for -day-month. I noticed that your last costing sheets were delayed.” You team member is likely give you several reasons for the delay. It’s good to listen and understand carefully. Here it is important not to judge. For example, if you hear that “Supply Chain folks did not give me the predicted price” do not say ” You should have told me” or “Did you call them”. Hold on!
  2. State how you feel: . “I felt let down because we had to use this data for a time sensitive RFP”. Follow this how you feel statement to the next step.
  3. State your needs explicitly:” Can we figure out a way to get the next costing sheets in on time?” Here you are showing that you rely on the person and that is a great feeling for a team member.Sometimes we are not clear ourselves and at other times we think it would be impolite to clearly ask for what we need. Clearly asking means talking in a polite and friendly tone (or email). Rosenberg provides great examples of parents yelling at their children instead of calmly asking the child to address what the parent needs.
  4. Actionable item: Following from your needs you must specify a doable action item. Here it’s important to convert your need to an actionable item. Once you specify the action the recipient of your nonviolent communication has a chance of considering doing it. You should be willing to hear a “no” to your specific action item without getting upset.In this particular scenario under costing will not hurt your response to RFP’ success but over costing might. However, there will be profitability questions if you get the contract with severe under-costing. Can you add a clause to index your quote to a public index like the consumer price index? Note some data crunching is needed here. In any case what you need is the costing that is as realistic (within a range) by a certain date. You still can figure out your final quote based on the market, client’s budget etc. You want your meeting to end with “winning the heart” of your costing colleague. Performance will follow.

Consider any difficult work email you send today. Try the above steps as you compose that email. Our guess is that you will be pleased with the outcome.

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Help Machine Learning – Don’t Edit Campaigns

Help Machine Learning- Don’t Edit Campaigns

You have a campaign in Google or Facebook ads that’s doing really well over several months. Maybe this was for a product that is no longer sold.

You have a new product to sell. And it seems obvious to try and make some edits in the text,images,video of the ad and change the landing pages for the new product.


Here is why:

Machine learning takes time: the machine learning process had worked over months on the campaign and had been gathering data. For Google Display ads you would get recommendations about which images are not performing well so that you can try and change them. Similarly, you’ll get recommendations for headlines and text if they are not doing well. It’s fine to edit those. Because the machine is telling you. (Sorry if you feel like a slave to the machine at this point). This is called the learning phase and although Facebook and Google mention 7 to 10 days, it’s really important not to fiddle with an ad when you set it up. Because every time you make edits – it re-enters the learning phase. While the learning phase may be a couple of weeks- campaign that has been running for a month or more has more data for the campaign settings. This includes campaign objective, geography, ad schedule,device preference etc.

Unlearning is hard: Unlearning is hard for humans. It is hard for machines as well. What happens when you change an ongoing campaign is that the machine has to unlearn and that takes a lot of time.

So what should you do?: Copy the successful campaign that you want to use for a different product. Now make your edits. If the old successful campaign is not required (assuming its a discontinued product). Pause it. The copied campaign has nothing to unlearn but you have all the content including text,images,videos running. If it is a new product its important to keep the campaign objective as traffic and not conversions. Why? because conversions take time as consumers go through their buying journey. Staying with traffic is a good idea as that gives you a chance to convert and you build data on the target market behavior.

Acknowledgement: we acknowledge the discussion with a helpful Google Ad specialist that clarified the suggestions in this post. While all the learning materials around the Google and Facebook exams do cover this point- the digital marketer is most frustrated when a campaign while approved, does not seem to be serving. We hope this post helps digital marketers.

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Why do Google Search Ads work?

Google Search Ads take your brand to the interest and desire stage in the buying process-StratoServe

There is lots of material online that explains how Google Search Ads work. Yet we could not find much content that explains why Google Search Ads work. Hence this post.

Think of every time you search for something on Google. You are curious to find out more about something. To us this is the holy grail of marketing and sales because your mind has started on the customer journey. Other forms of push advertising (Display ads, Video Ads, TV Ads, Direct Mail, Billboards) keep trying to ignite your interest.

But when you search online, your interest is already ignited. That is why you are searching online!

The brilliance of the paid Google Search Ad model is that it is based on data from the free Google Searches that we do so many times a day. Here are some thoughts on why paid Google Search works so well for advertisers:

  1. Google Search Data: Google is searched about 5.6 Billion times a day according to Hubspot. The Google system knows what exactly you typed on your search bar. Beyond that, depending on your privacy settings, Google also factors in what exactly you were were looking for. For example, when we search for our popular post “Why are impressions free in Google AdWords” we find it near the top of the organic results but you might find it lower on the page because you might have a different search intent despite using the same words. If you have been searching for party supplies when you search for “glasses” Google can guess that you are not looking for eyeglasses. You should see results that speak to what you have in mind.This perpetual quest of individual search intent, is what gives Google a pretty good idea of what you,individually, are looking for.
  2. Google Organic Results driven by SEO or simply good content?: Some years ago Wikipedia used to be the first result for many queries. No one who writes for Wikipedia was trying to do SEO. They were just explaining stuff that they know a lot about. By simply providing the best answer to a searcher’s search intent Google leads the search engines. It takes years to get on the first page of Google (we know with 16 years experience in blogging!) and no amount of technical SEO can help. You have to be the best answer to the searcher’s query. Years is the key idea here because search ads can appear at the top of the organic results the same or next day!
  3. Google Search Ads appear on the same day: The search ads can appear on the same day even for a brand new website. Search Ads appear just like top organic results pages because Google feels that the search ads address the search intent of the searcher. The best Google search ads are those that give value to the searcher that’s comparable to the great value in top organic results. Here is where the big (huge!) data of Google kicks in. They already have the data to show the best organic results as soon as you type your query. The Google Search Ad platform is set up so that you can choose the queries you are looking for (keywords) and Google starts showing your ads (Impressions) for free. Free impressions seem great except that if people don’t click Google lowers the Quality Score of your keyword and your AdRank keeps going down. You find that search ads become very expensive to run. If there are competitors who are also advertising against those keywords , you ads may not run at all because your quality of ad and landing page is poor. You can’t compete in the ad auction.Because your competitors ads do a better job in addressing the searcher’s intent.If your ads do run , they might be at the bottom of the page. You can see how competing advertisers are doing in the Auction Insights report.

If you have a very clear idea about your target market. And the value your brand provides to the searcher. Then search marketing is an affordable way of reaching a buyer who is advanced in the customer journey. If you don’t have years to build SEO traffic and can can spend some money- Google search ads may be for your brand.

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Getting the word out: Google Display Ads vs. Facebook Ads

Social Self on Instagram/Facebook vs. Real Self on Google

At the early parts of the sales funnel you are trying to build awareness about your brand. Your target market needs to know that you exist. You need to get the word out.

Google Ads and Facebook Ads that are both great in getting the word out. For this post we stick to Google Display Ads and exclude Google Search Ads. For search ads work better for lower parts of the sales funnel. By the time someone searches for something (eg. ‘Cheap flights to Paris”) you can be sure that the person is now looking for a specific destination. When your search ad pops up that mentions “Cheap flights to Paris” it becomes very likely that the searcher clicks on the ad to check out what your landing page has to offer.

If a customer is already thinking about your product category, that’s huge progress in the customer’s journey. See our very popular post on Why Impressions are Free in Google Search Advertising.

For this post we are talking about awareness and how both Facebook and Google Display Ads are both cost-effective options, A good starting point is to think about your own persona on Facebook:

You are your “social self “on Facebook/Instagram:This is the mostly cheerful/upbeat persona that people project on social media including Facebook and Instagram. For eg. you are likely to post a picture of a great lunch and are less likely to post a picture of a lunch that disappointed. Similarly, if a friend liked a worthy cause or was “interested” in a particular Facebook event- you are might “like” the page or click that you are “interested” in that event. You signal some interest and are okay with your friends being made aware. But this is short of actually Googling it. Whatever you do on social media becomes data points for at least your social media persona.

You are your “real self” on Google:We tend to be our “real” self while searching on Google. We start our research on anything with Google. No question (search query) is “too stupid” for Google. We all learn before we talk to the professional. For example, medical doctors are tired of patients who have numerous questions based on Dr. Google. So much so that medical examination rooms have articles like Dr. Google will see you now posted on the notice board! The point is that if you had a question that you are afraid to ask a human being, now you can ask Google without fear of being judged!

The next issue to consider is the business model of both Facebook and Google from this post’s point of view of display advertising:

Facebook business model: Facebook’s mission is to connect people and give everyone a chance to share their feelings and opinions. The revenue comes in from what you do as your “social self.” Everything you do on the platform becomes a data point about what you like and dislike or do not care about. Advertisers can choose from a variety of dimensions (demographics,geography,interests,behaviors) to target display ads (these include page “boosts”). Research in marketing indicates that when ads are promoted through paid advertising from Company Facebook pages the “likes” do help the brand.

Google business model: Google on the other hand, is all about answering your questions. It needs to hunt out the best answer across the web-instantly. For display advertising Google has its own “AdSense” program and shares some revenue with over 2 million website owners for the ads that are displayed on their site. The key point to understand is that display ads are being seen after someone arrives on the content. A skilled display advertiser is able to show the ad on relevant websites by setting up campaigns appropriately from the large number of campaign settings and your goals. These include keywords in addition to demographics, geography, behavior etc. Some clients can get upset if they see an ad on a website that they think is irrelevant. For example, a machinery part on a religious blog. But hey! there are many manufacturers interested in religion. The machinery brand will be at the back of the customer’s mind and will become an evoked brand.

Internet Display ads are similar to TV ads: In a sense both Facebook and Google Display ads are like ads on TV. Except that a consumer with the most expensive TV channel package can get only a few hundred TV channels. On the other hand digital marketers get a selection from 2 million “channels” of Google AdSense partners. Just like TV shows each of the partners have their own audience who come due to their interest in the content. When they see your ad it stays in their mind. Some will click on your ad and you have a web visitor that can be so valuable. All this is completely trackable through the Google Analytics and AdWords platform. So you know which specific ad got you a visitor or a specific eCommerce sale. You can’t do that yourself for TV Ads !

Facebook has its 2.7 billion global users and each have friends. When skillfully done Facebook ads have the added benefit of social sharing. If you liked an ad, your friends might take a second look. Here too tracking through the Facebook Ad Manager is easy and your web visits and eCommerce transactions can be tracked on Google Analytics or other web analytics software as well. You can’t do that yourself for TV Ads!

However, TV Ads continue to be relevant today depending on your target audience and budget. It’s just that you can start Facebook and Google Display ads for $5 or $10 a day and start seeing results soon.

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Gentle messages when people may not care as much for the environment

About the visual in this post: This research used Google AdWords to test assertive vs. non-assertive messaging for pollution prevention in the Mediterranean sea. As we try to shake off COVID and try to go back to summer holidays the image depicts the Mediterranean sea. Don’t assume that your entire audience cares deeply and are ready for an assertive ask!


Social Cause marketing is something that all nonprofits are trying to do.Companies with strong CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs similarly advertise for causes as do Governments. Generally, the marketing and advertising community takes a cue from commercial sales methods of “asking for a sale.” Thus you will see TV commercials and internet ads that exhort you to “Donate Now.”

About the visual in this post: This research used Google AdWords to test assertive vs. non-assertive messaging for pollution prevention in the Mediterranean sea. As we try to shake off COVID and try to go back to summer holidays the image depicts the Mediterranean sea. Don’t assume that your entire audience cares deeply and are ready for an assertive ask!


A fascinating, paper “Go Green! Should Environmental Messages be So Assertive?” in the Journal of Marketing explains. The authors Ann Kronrod, Amir Grinstein, Luc Wathieu do a series of lab experiments followed by using Google Ads to test their hypothesis that it is probably better to be less assertive when promoting environmental causes.

Here are some examples of the experimental treatments reported in the paper (Pages 97-99) for the lab experiments to give our dear readers a sense of what was tested:

  • Assertive: “Reducing air pollution: everyone must use more public transportation!”
    • Nonassertive: “Reducing air pollution: everyone could use more public transportation”
  • Assertive: “While washing dishes, you must economize water/soap!”
    • Nonassertive: “While washing dishes, it’s worth economizing water/soap.”
  • Assertive: “You must recycle plastic containers.”
    • Nonassertive “It’s worth recycling plastic containers.”

With student subjects they found that the response was better with nonassertive messages.

Finally the authors conduct a Google Ad campaign (2010) a topic of keen interest to our dear readers. Here are the details (pages 99-100):

  • Assertive Google Ad Text: “You must save the Mediterranean. You must sign a petition to reduce water pollution in the Sea. To sign the petition click”
  • Nonassertive Google Ad Text: “You could save the Mediterranean. You may sign a petition to reduce water pollution in the Sea. To sign the petition click”

The researchers found that back in 2010 when search keywords in the AdGroup were “Mediterranean Sea,” “Mediterranean Sea pollution,”“sea condition” the assertive ad text generated more clicks. At the time of search the searcher was thinking about the sea and the assertive ad text seemed relevant. On the other hand the assertive text ad did not do well in the AdGroup that had more general keywords like “knitting machines,”
“news,” “television channel”. Interestingly, the less “sea” relevant keywords found favor with the nonassertive messaging.

The authors conclude that the when audience interest is mild it might be better to use nonassertive messaging.

The paper is highly cited (download and read the full paper by Kronrod,Grinstein, Wathieu , 2012) It raises a fundamental question in marketing – what should you tell each of your audiences? If your audience is really “into” your brand then a call to action (CTA) like “Buy Now”, “Donate Now” is a good strategy. The point is :

Consumers don’t think about your brand a lot

paraphrased quote from Stan Sthanunathan (UNILEVER, ) WEBINAR at YALE CENTER FOR CONSUMER INSIGHTS, Learning from Leaders Webinar, May 18, 2021

It is for this reason digital advertising platforms have a three stage advertising campaign set up process. These are awareness,consideration and purchase as discussed in a prior post.

The Kronrod,Grinstein and Wathieu (2012) paper is trying to explain that if the consumer is not currently thinking about your brand – then don’t keep asking her to buy! We believe that both clients and advertisers/marketers need to slow down and accept this reality. Doing so will give time for the customer to journey through the sales funnel.

About StratoServe.

Google results are not organized Alphabetically

Searching an encyclopedia takes time Google is fast-StratoServe

The holding company for Google is Alphabet (stock market symbol is GOOGL but company name is Alphabet inc.). We found it interesting that although the holding company is called “Alphabet inc.” Google’s entire purpose is not to organize alphabetically. Instead the goal is to show results that meet the searcher’s search intent. For more on how Google thinks see our updated post from 2017 on “Getting found on Google.”

If you think about it, everything in the paper world is organized alphabetically or numerically. Here are some examples:

  • Encyclopedias : All paper encyclopedias were organized alphabetically. So if you wanted to find out about Armenia you needed to find the volume that covered “A” and if you wanted to learn about Zambia, you needed to find the volume that contained “Z”.
  • Phone Books: All paper phone books or telephone directories were organized by last name, yes alphabetically.
  • Yellow Pages: The Yellow pages in paper form were organized – yes alphabetically and if you wanted to find Electricians, you needed to look under E and Plumbers were listed under P.
  • Class Rosters: In the teaching world class rosters are organized alphabetically by student last name. Despite most teachers in the US wanting to address the student by their first name. Perhaps the exception was the British high schools were you were known by your last name.
  • Libraries and the Dewey decimal system: Library catalogs follow the Dewey System and there are a set of numbers assigned to a subject. Thus 657 is CPA, Accounting, Bookkeeping, Financial Reports 658 is Starting a Business, Entrepreneurs, Financing, Management, Interviewing and 658.8 is Marketing, Sales, Franchising 659 is  Advertising, Fashion Modeling. See a nice list from the good folks at the Library of University of Central Florida.
  • Linnaean Taxonomy for life itself: Life itself is studied under a classification system called the Linnaean Taxonomy. Named after the 18th century Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus all forms of life are covered by some criteria. Scholars in these fields have academic journals,conferences and specializations within each of the fields.

So what did Google do differently?

As explained in our post on Getting found on Google, Google founders as PhD students realized that the academic world does ranking quite differently. A scholar can decide to study whatever, but needs to spell out the prior research in that specific area. Next, the scholar needs to establish that there is a gap in knowledge in existing research. Next, they need to establish that filling the gap in knowledge or literature makes a difference to the world. All these steps involve referring to influential past work in the specific area being studied. How have scholars determined the “influential” work in their fields for ages? Quite simply, by prior references called citations to prior work. Our dear readers, who are not academics , might find our 2010 post regarding Google Scholar revealing.

This scholarly thinking of ranking search results by relevance is behind the Google results in all products. Including Ads, the effort is to provide the best answer to whatever you are searching for.Thus, if the book is available full text and you are looking for one particular paragraph- that you paste in the search bar. You can find it almost instantly, frequently highlighted in yellow!

Advances in technology, machine learning and artificial intelligence is only making Google faster and more relevant.

We hope that our many business readers will encourage their digital marketers to make both content and advertising more specific and more relevant to the searchers intent. SEO and AdRanking (lower costs) will take care of itself.

About StratoServe.

Free tracking of digital clicks to your store

Five scenarios for the store owner-StratoServe

With COVID vaccines all US businesses are hopeful that the pandemic will soon be behind us. Empty stores will be full of customers again!

It turns out the the smallest business with a physical storefront can now track ads from click to in-store purchase. Yes there is some work involved but all the data and analytics is free- for the Google ecosystem. For our variety of dear readers we discuss 5 different scenarios that would apply to your situation as a store owner :

Scenario 1 : What if we don’t have a website? Many small businesses just don’t have a website although they might have a Facebook page. These include restaurants hard hit by the pandemic. For such businesses it’s good to get a free Google My Business account. Just fill in all the fields entirely. Ask your customers to write reviews. There is a verification process – but it works. You can also build your free first website.

Scenario 2 :We do have a website- but no digital advertising. With the global pandemic and high digital adoption you’ll be surprised at the number of visitors you have already. To understand your current web visitors make sure that you have Google Analytics installed. It’s also possible to look at what people searched before arriving at your website by installing Google Search Console. Both these products are free. We recommend going with Google Tag Manager as the platform for installing all types of computer code snippets on your website. This could include Facebook Pixel that you need to keep track of Facebook Advertising. Think of Google Tag Manager like a bucket that is outside your website so that nothing is disturbed as you try out various types of analytics possibilities. See Scenario 5 for continued ideas on how to track conversions when you have no paid advertising.

Scenario 3: We are redesigning our website. Do not junk your old website. Just because you are building a new one. Why? Because your search engine ranking gets lost. We have an earlier post (2012) on Why do organizations find it so hard to update websites. But in the last decade and through the pandemic website content management systems have become far more intuitive and user friendly. Sadly though, even the biggest organizations are not able keep old links intact. We believe that new people think that the old was useless despite the many links and traffic to that old content. If you have influence on this one thing, request rather plead with your organization to keep old content reachable. 301 redirects work pretty well or you can just retain the link addresses and replace with updated content for the purpose of that old page.

Scenario 4: We don’t have a customer list. You need to start having one. Because this is a requirement if you want to get the full benefit of the tracking of your digital clicks to website.Preferably you should have the name and contact details of all customers who have bought something from you. A great way to do this is to offer a loyalty card with special discounts as they check out. Keep in touch with customers when you have something of special value for them. Avoid blast emails or text messages because repeated and meaningless contact bothers people and you get unsubscribes. This is part of your direct mail or direct marketing strategy including email and text. This can be most valuable when you want to sell your business because it gives your business a book of customers. Today CRM systems (including SalesForce.com) are very affordable and worth getting started because they offer numerous benefits in digital marketing (we’ll cover in later posts, for now note that your direct digital customer relationships are best for increasing privacy concerns) . We limit our discussion in this post to the tracking question for local stores.

Scenario 5: We have a CRM system and ongoing Local Google Ads: In the scenarios above, we have not discussed Google Ads or any paid form of advertising like Facebook Ads. (there is other Google Ads content on this blog) . Extending Scenario 2 where you have no paid ads you can track valuable customer actions. This involves creating Goals in Google Analytics. In this situation, your store conversions whether from Google My Business (local) or SEO (free organic) can be tracked.

Let no SEO “wizard” tell you that SEO is “free”. It is not free, quick or assured. It takes years, huge investments in content creation. SEO is costly,long drawn and uncertain.

Dr. Roy @StratoServe

Whatever the source of your traffic (paid or free) the technique to track in-store purchases involves tracking store visits.

Store Visit Intro video from Google

We wish all physical store owners great success as we put the pandemic behind us.

About StratoServe.

AdTech Remarketing: Cookie Challenges Ahead

AdTech Remarketing-How cookies Work- StratoServe

The announcement by Google that 3rd party cookies will be gone in Chrome in 2022 has raised great concerns among advertisers. The AdTech community of hundreds of companies will also need to figure out their approach. Here is some background on this debate:

Do you recall those creepy ads that follow you around? These are remarketing ads in the Google system and also called retargeted ads in the AdTech world. Over 70 % of your first time web visitors will never return. These folks have moved down the buyer’s journey and are aware of your brand. If they were at more than one page or spent more than 5 seconds they are at the consideration stage. If you have an e-commerce website and new customers abandoned the cart- they were so close to conversion!

While those creepy ads freak out many consumers for privacy concerns, a more relaxed way of thinking about them is the persistent salesperson who follows you out of the store. When you enter the physical store and leave without buying something! Also consider, that if consumers want all content for free – how are publishers going to survive? Thus, digital display ads provide revenue for publishers and return to advertisers who spend.

Remarketing might be annoying- but it works for the advertiser and is cost effective. And this is what is about to change for Chrome that has over 63% of the browser market.

It’s timely to recap what all this cookie terminology in terms of basic marketing examples from the pre-Internet era:

  1. What are first party cookies ?: When you go to a website and read their content,browse products or buy products -the website (and business) starts a one to one direct relationship with you. Think of a Trade Show where you dropped your business card at a particular business booth. That gives the business a chance to follow up after the trade show. This is the strongest, best way of conducting business. This is is the cookies with milk option. So comforting and valuable for both business and privacy.As all Trade Show exhibitors (from pre-Covid) know, there are many people who come by your booth talk, collect the freebies but don’t leave their contact details. Do you wish you could follow up later? That’s what remarketing or retargeting helps you do for your website visitors.
  2. What are second party cookies? The problem is that you have a limited number of customers and you want to find more customers. Think of the trade show where the organizer frequently provides a list of attendees to exhibitors as a part of the exhibitors fee. You can follow up via direct mail and email by referring to the Trade Show connection. Since many of the trade show visitors may not have visited your booth, there is a chance that some non-visitors respond to your direct marketing efforts. Similarly if you are a Cruise line rolling out specials for after the pandemic, it would be helpful if you could repeat ads to folks on the travel pages of the online newspaper who had already visited your Cruise line deal page. The newspaper is a second party as there is a subset of the Cruise line web visitors. The second party has a larger pool of customers, some may be common to your customer base or be similar to your customers. They are the second larger cookie wrapped in the chocolate of their own customers. Your milk of customers is being connected to the chocate of customers of the second party. This has privacy issues but is acceptable just as we accept ads on TV targeted to us based on TV shows we watch.
  3. What are third party cookies? Third parties in the cookie world have no direct or indirect connection with the customer. They are neither trade shows who have a first party relationship with visitors nor online newspapers or TV shows who have a first party relationship with readers. Instead, they are like Direct Mail List providers who sell mailing lists for direct mail or email. The Direct Mail list providers compile the list from websites (B2B) , town home owner records, phone books etc. that are mostly public in nature. It is the third party who attaches a cookie to the browser and then tracks the person across the web. Think of the crumbling cookie that leaves a crumb on your chrome browser and then goes wherever your browser goes, recording all your behavior. This enables personal tracking and has privacy advocates riled up. Privacy advocates feel concerned that an entity who has no connection to the web visitor or the website- keeps tracking the visitor. Browsers like Firefox and Safari already do not allow 3rd party cookies. Chrome is following suit.

If you have a customer connection it is golden from both privacy and a marketing point of view. Thus, big companies are very interested in creating “Walled Gardens”. Walled gardens involve a signup into Apple, Facebook,Google,Instagram, LinkedIn or New York Times. Once you are signed in,you are walled in! You enter a first party customer relationship with that entity. Your behaviour data on these platforms become very valuable to advertisers.

In the pre-Internet era there were only so many (hundreds of) thousands of newspapers and TV channels. Today there are over a billion websites. The audience is fragmented or rather finds something interesting in the long tail. Reaching them while preserving privacy is a fine balancing act.

Developers from AdTech and elsewhere are being encouraged to participate in the Google initiatives of Turtledove. and FloC as part of their privacy sandbox.

Marketers will look eagerly to solutions that allay privacy concerns and allow respectful retargeting.

About StratoServe.

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